I'd like to think that I'm not an acquisitive nerd but like Michael Johnston my "hobbies" also extend to wristwatches. The one in the photo above is an Eterna Matic, Airforce II which is water resistant to 10 ATM or 100 meters. It is an automatic which can also be hand wound. It's Swiss made with a Swiss mechanical movement and came with a black leather band. It's a watch I have owned for about 20 years. It's one of four Eterna automatics I seem to have collected and, because it is small and minimalist, it is one of my favorite dress watches.
How accurate is it? I have no clue....Nor do I care.
Yesterday I picked up a used Carl Zeiss 35-135mm f3.3 to 4.5 zoom lens that was originally made to use on Contax Y/C cameras. Cameras like the Contax RTSIII which was an absolutely delightful camera from the 1990s. The lens was described by Zeiss in their technical literature as being of superb optical quality and competitive with many prime lenses.
It's a manual focusing lens and has no electronic contacts with which to communicate with any camera. When used with an adapter on a Leica SL2 the lens is like the Sphinx. It divulges no information. It just rides on the front of the camera and looks as cool as possible.
I had no intention of buying yet another "standard" zoom lens since I already have, for the full frame L mount system the Panasonic 24-105mm and the Leica 24-90mm products. Both are very good and very useful but they each bring something different to the table. The Leica brings unbeatable image quality at all focal lengths while the Panasonic brings with it image stabilization (great addition to the non-stabilized, older Leica SL cameras, and the CL + TL) and easier handling on account of its lower weight.
I also have the Panasonic 20-60mm lens which is often overlooked but, for the money is an excellent performers within its range. And so affordable.
But a friend alerted me to the arrival of the Zeiss zoom at our local camera store and suggested I check it out. He knew I had used the Contax system for a few years and remembered that I liked their lenses a great deal. In fact, I still have and use both the 28mm Zeiss Distagon and the 50mm Zeiss Planar lenses from that old system, with adapters, on the Leica and Panasonic cameras and find them to be really good when used correctly.
When the lens is zoomed all the way out it looks enormous. About the size of
my 70-200mm. When it's at 35mm it's about half the lens. And note, this is without a hood.
The 35-135mm is a combined focus and zoom ring model. One "pushes or pulls" the main ring on the lens to zoom between 35mm and 135mm. The ring also rotates for focusing. This lens is... and isn't a "close focusing monster." Used in its normal mode it only focuses down to 1.2 meters or about five feet and change. But the ring closest to the camera body can be pulled back toward the camera to engage a macro focus capability that will get one down to about 10 inches. I haven't had the chance to use the macro functionality but I'll get around to it.
Given all these parameters you probably can tell that using the lens for day to day photography requires...patience and processes. For example. Since there is no automatic aperture action you can't just set an aperture and focus. You'll go crazy trying to fine focus while battling extended depth of field at f8.0 or f11. The appropriate way, as often described by Sean Reid, is to set the aperture to its widest setting and then focus. This gives you the shallowest depth of field and helps you make a visual assessment of when you are "in the zone." Once you've hit sharp focus you then take a second or two to stop down to the taking aperture you wanted in the first place.
I would add to this the idea that one focuses at the widest aperture and augments the process by also "punching in" the magnification to see a much enlarged section of the frame for even more accurate focusing. I also keep focus peaking engaged as a quick double check; even with full magnification.
Obviously this is a pain in the butt and won't go very far in making you the fastest shooter in town. But that's what the AF lenses are ultimately for. There were some lenses made in the film days that were designed to be par focal (meaning that you could focus at the longest focal length which was also the most magnified and then zoom to a wider angle of view and get a more accurate focus setting that way. This is not a par focal lens. Not by a long shot. Or or short shot.
While a number of lenses that I use with adapters seem to work perfectly for exposure on the SL2 this is also not one of them. I find myself often correcting overexposure with a twist of the exposure compensation dial. A fairly large number of images I made this morning required anywhere from a third stop to a stop and a half of correction (usually darker...) to get the exposure right for me.
Another thing you need to know if you are considering finding one of these beauties and picking one up is that "picking it up" is a bit of a workout. The lens weigh somewhere north of two pounds and will make just about any combination of camera body and lens feel a bit front heavy. Or just...heavy. The silver lining might be that if you carry the camera and lens all day in your left or right hand (instead of on the strap) with your elbow bent you will build muscle mass. I recommend switching hands from time to time. The front of the lens is big. It takes an 82mm filter as does the big Leica lens. I've also read that the 35-135mm has a tendency to flare but I didn't see much evidence of that today. I will try to source a lens hood because they are beneficial even in studio settings.
One might question my sanity in buying a lens that's so cumbersome and unforgiving. I would get in line with you to make that diagnosis but...I would declare (disingenuously or not) that the lens has a different look and optical character from the more modern lenses and gives me an extra tool for creating images that transcend the look of current gear. And that my preferred use would be for making portraits with the camera happily ensconced on a tripod and used at a comfortable pace. But another reason for my purchase was purely nostalgia for simpler times and sexier systems. This was a lens I wish I'd bought back 25 years ago and I never did. Being able to play with one to my heart's content now, and for about $300, seemed like a bargain. But I'll let the photos tell the story....
In a full sized, 47 megapixel raw file the texture on the stone on the building on the left is so well imaged that even the texture shows more texture. And you can see the sand in the mortar between the bricks. It's pretty magnificent. I like it.
The "color checker" shot. Does the wall render a greener color than the sky?
You'd be surprised at how many cameras make a mess of this....
this shot is all about my ability to handhold a camera at 1/15th or 1/20th of second with any degree of steadiness. I shot this at 1/20th of a second into a mirror in a dimly lit room. I had already swum two miles earlier, had two cups of strong coffee and walked a mile in the heat. Not bad for an ancient photographer.
It's important to work on your handholding skills if you use this lens with any of my Leica SL(x) cameras. The two earlier SL bodies have no image stabilization nor does the lens. Your skill is it. The SL2 has image stabilization but requires you to either use an L system lens or to be able to pick from a lens that is in the camera's profile set. This one is not.
I guess if you are going to work at a fixed focal length with this lens you could select a Leica R lens profile that matches the focal length and this would enable I. S. but you'd be stuck with a mismatched lens profile which may overcorrect for vignetting or geometry or cause some color spread that you don't want.
It's a crap shoot. I'll try it and see what works. But for today it was not on the menu.
Which brings up something else. We're spoiled by I.S. in one good way. If you are focusing manually it stabilizes the finder image making it easier to achieve fine focus at longer focal lengths or higher magnifications. The finder images are less jumpy and jittery.
I'm always been impressed when a lens is capable of rendering straight lines as straight lines without the intervention of software fixes and profiles. It's the mark of a high performance design.
No geometric "fixes" were attempted on this image in post production. The lens just makes...
It was a strange morning. I hit the pool and swam from eight to nine. I got out, got dressed and went to meet a photographer in the downtown area who said he wanted to "do the walk" with me. When I got to my usual parking spot I checked my texts and found one from him bowing out for today. I was there with a camera so I went right into the walk. From 9:30 till around noon I put in some good miles and got the extra workout from carrying the camera and lens around. By noon the temperature was already in the 90s and I was feeling....tired. Worn out. Thirsty and spent. Some iced tea and bit of lunch was good and sitting on my butt writing this post was enforced relaxation. I think I'll draw the line at getting more than 4 hours a day of exercise and movement. At least not all at once....
Here's to sitting in a quiet, dim studio with the air conditioning cranking and more iced tea in the fridge.
New lenses are fun. I like this one. I need to find a human to photograph with it. It's a keeper just for its personality.